Approaching parenting is a fraught process with judgment at every turn. Chances are that your own approach will contrast with someone close around you – Your friend, your sister, your mother, your mother-in-law, your sister’s neighbour’s mother-in-law’s friend… and you will probably become closely acquainted with ALL their opinions on the subject.
It’s logical that we benchmark our performance around what we know from those around us. Before we have children, this is the way we formulate all those notions of what we will do when… you know? those words that we are forced to eat in the ensuing months after childbirth or even conception. Various standards of house keeping, cleanliness and culinary contributions are conceived in the minds eye and both ends of the spectrum have their pros and cons.
The main question I ask myself now is, ‘who am I trying to impress?’ As a new mother, many of my conversations revolve around parenting and so inevitably I share my approach and receive a reaction or response in turn. I am vulnerable to judgement and negative judgement will often lead me to question what I’m doing. Whoever I am trying to impress, they will never be truly impressed and if they are, then someone else will disapprove.
I have no foolproof mechanism to counteract this knee-jerk reaction but I’m slowly learning how to move past it. I try, as far as I can to not judge my fellow parent too harshly.
When I hear about all day toddler movie marathons to cope with the pressures of raising a newborn or dealing with sickness (there are no sick days for mums – unless they’re in daycare), I salute the mother and congratulate her for her ingenious plan and her luck that she has a child with the attention span to sit through a movie. I know the situation isn’t entirely desirable but survival is the key and as in life and child-birth, there are no medals for doing things the hard way. In fact, the result of too much self-imposed pressure can be serious damage to your mental health. I’m not saying that people who don’t let their kids watch TV will all get depressed, but I AM saying, don’t hate on people who do and more importantly, don’t hate on yourself if you do.
I buy lots of pre-packaged baby food and snacks. B will eat toast or porridge for breakfast on weekends but when I’ve got to get out of the house by 8am for childcare drop-off etc I am more than happy to see him suck down a tube of bircher muesli or yogurt with oats filling his gorgeous little tummy in 30 seconds or less. I’m not ashamed of the separately wrapped baby bickies, crackers or fruit bars that I can toss in the nappy bag and use to bribe B back into his pram or car seat when we have to go. I greatly appreciate hearing tips or tricks but…lets be honest if you are going to give me a recipe for home made, sugar free, organic, freezable baby cakes, unless you are actually giving them to me, B will probably never taste them.
I do what I can to try and take the healthy options and keep B busy doing things he loves – like going to the park 3 times a day or sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by a pile of ‘cooks’ (saucepans). But I won’t hold myself to any standard that stresses me to the point that I compromise the actual practical aspects of parenting my child.
I used to get so obsessed by the notion that I was less of a mother if I didn’t put in the “hard yards” and spend hours trying to get B to settle by himself in his cot for his nap (still unheard of in our house). It got to the point where I actually found myself losing my temper with him after 90 minutes of persisting. At this point I thought WTF am I doing this for? Who am I trying to impress? There was no one else who was a part of the process and so, I surmised, there was no one else with the right to an opinion.
Just like that, I bundled B into the car and drove around the block a few times until he conked out and I lovingly carried my sleeping bundle of joy back inside to his cot, inhaled his calm sleeping baby scent and chilled out on the couch for an hour or so while he napped.
If I’m too busy, too angry or too worried about mess to roll on the floor and kiss my baby’s chubby cheeks until he screams with laughter, then its time to cut myself some slack. I’m getting better at it too. Now, I know that some people hold themselves together by clinging to structure and measuring themselves against certain standards but I hope for their sake that when the chips are down they’ll throw some Peppa pig at the situation and enjoy whatever moments of peaceful parenting they can get.
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